5 Reasons Your Glutes Aren't Growing | A Coach Mark Carroll Guide


Nov 25, 2021
Mark Carroll

These days I don’t take on many new clients, I have only accepted a handful in the last year. A lot of these new clients are women who are classified as advanced lifters. Pretty much all of them came to me with great physiques… except for their glutes which were, in their own words, “non-existent.” Of course they had glutes but they were not at the same level as the rest of their body.

Now, this is completely different from a woman who comes to me (or you) who has never trained in their life and has small glute muscles – naturally, you would expect that. The question is, why would someone who is advanced, trains hard, and has built considerable muscle everywhere else, have their glute muscles be behind (pun intended) the rest of their physique?

Before I explain the reasons why, I want you to look at the above photos. These are women who came to me after a solid amount of time training, and finished up training with me and had their glutes no longer being a weakness but actually a strength for their physiques! These photos are consistent evidence that if we find answers to the reasons for their lack of development, we can turn a weak point into a strength. YES! It is possible. 

Here are 5 reasons why your glutes are not growing:

  1. Chopping and changing your exercises every session

Probably the hardest part of teaching clients high quality program design (and also the trainers I mentor around the world) is that the best results don’t come from “shocking your muscles every session”. It’s the opposite, actually.
Progressive overload occurs when we actually allow ourselves time to improve. When we are learning any skill, whether it’s to skateboard, dance, or an exercise in the gym, progression comes from repetition. Have a training program and a core set of exercises, then keep doing them! Practice, add weight to the bar, and get stronger in these movements. If you are forever swapping exercises around every single session, this is not progression, this is mixing it up “just because”.

  1. Poor exercise selection for glutes

Glutes are not built just doing hip thrusts or abductions like social media would have you believe. Great glutes are built from intelligent program design and exercise selection. A hip thrust is not superior to other exercises for glutes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good one, but definitely not the be-all and end-all. Exercises like Romanian deadlifts, lunges, split squats, squats and leg press will all train the glute max more optimally when it is in a stretched position. This is important. When we think of building the glutes, we want to choose multiple exercises which do multiple things. Too often, it’s hip thrusts + machine abduction + booty band burn out and that’s it – that’s the problem.

Better exercise selection can lead to far superior results. There is more to glutes than just a thrust and definitely more optimal choices outside of a band.

  1. Poor exercise EXECUTION – key word execution

You can choose the best exercises for glutes, but if you execute them poorly then you may not be doing what you think the movement is doing. 

All of my clients film their lifts for me. As an online coach, I’ve found that even the most experienced clients often make some serious mistakes in their execution of a lift which impairs possible progress. It’s not just about choosing the right movement, it is also how you perform it.

Take a hip thrust, for example. All too often you see people going so heavy they can’t contract their glutes. Why is this bad? Because the top of a thrust is where the glutes are actually loaded. The bottom is actually very little glutes.

We can also look at a squat. A squat trains the glutes in a stretch position, but all too often people think as much range of motion as possible is what’s optimal. Then, they go so low that they ‘butt wink’ which involves a posterior pelvic tilt where the pelvis tucks under the hips. Why is this bad for glutes? Because in this position, the glutes are not being challenged in the bottom of the squat. When you ‘butt wink’ the glutes actually lose their ability to produce force and contribute to the lift.
Yes, you are now achieving more range of motion, but NO, this is not more glutes, instead it’s less. 

Execution matters. Choose good exercises and perform them correctly.

Speaking of range of motion, this leads me to reason #4.

  1. Exceeding your glutes active range of motion

This is a topic people I find struggle to understand so bare with me. When we talk about range of motion you can think of range as two things:

1 – The ability to move a weight as far as possible, e.g. from point A to point B. The key word here is move a weight.

2 – The one thing I care about more than just moving a weight is the ability to move a muscle under tension through a full range of motion.

These are two different things.

Take a Romanian deadlift, for example. This trains our hip extensors – the hamstrings and the Glute Max. The issue with an Romanian deadlift for glutes is that there is only so much range of motion you can move the bar with before you begin to lose tension in the glutes. When you hinge, once your hips can no longer push back, this is your full range of motion of the glutes.

What you then see from a side-on view is that the glutes no longer push back. In order to continue to move the bar towards the ground, two things tend to happen:

Firstly, your knees begin to straighten which means you are moving away from a glute dominant hip hinge and into a straighter leg Romanian which equals more hamstrings. You want more range. Your glutes cannot give you anymore. You think more range is better, therefore you continue trying to lower the bar more and more. The body needs to move to a position to compensate for your goal.
So yes, you are moving the bar further, but NO, this is not more glutes. Where we most want tension in the gluteus in an RDL – the stretch position – is now no longer under significant tension as you have actually moved away from the glutes in order to achieve more range of motion.

The second thing that can happen is your lower back begins to round. If you cannot achieve more range through the glutes or hamstrings but still have a mental goal of moving the bar as far as possible, then the body again will compensate for your desire by flexing the lower back to give you more range of motion. What does this achieve? This takes the tension off the glutes and puts it onto your lower back.

Do you see how moving a weight as far as possible does not always mean more of the desired muscle we are trying to train? It can actually mean less! 

If your goal is glutes, stay in your active range of motion. This means stay in a range of motion when performing the lift that the glutes are under tension. Don’t lose tension in the quest just to move a weight as far as possible. This is counter-productive!

  1. Living in a calorie deficit

Now, let’s say you get all 4 of the above correct. Amazing! However, for optimal results you need to tick all the boxes for growth. We ALSO need to fuel your body. Both of the ladies above, were in a long term calorie surplus (building phases) with me. This is not always fun and is not always something that makes you feel great about yourself. Sure, we all want to be shredded year round but that’s not where gains are achieved.

If you desperately want to grow your muscles to their full potential, you need to eat in a manner which reflects your goals! Match your calories to your training goals. This is IMPORTANT!

Outside of newbie gains and genetic freaks, the majority of us mere mortals will need to do everything we can for muscle growth. That involves taking time out of a deficit and eating in the most anabolic environment we can create in our body – a calorie surplus.

Yes, it can be a mental hurdle to overcome, but it is worth it long term. When looking at your physique, think LONG TERM!

  • What will serve me best in 2-3 years time?
  • Where do I really want to take my body?

Ask yourself these types of questions!

If you do desperately want to make the gains you know you deserve, then match your nutrition with your training goals!

Give yourself MONTHS…yes, months, in a surplus. Make it a minimum of 12 weeks, then ideally up to 6 months.

Follow these 5 steps consistently!

As a coach who has done this over and over again with women all over the world, I can assure you, gains will come! Serious gains!

These 5 reasons your glutes are not growing may seem simple but simple is what gets results. Focus less on the fancy, gimmicky and clickbaity content out there, and attack true, science based principles.

None of this stuff is ‘sexy’ but I think getting amazing results is pretty damn cool! 

Oh, and if you need more help with this stuff, I STRONGLY recommend investing into YOUR GLUTE COACH and the Building the Bikini Body Series so you can not only learn, but also implement my exact methods which consistently turn glutes from a weakness into a strength!

Coach Mark Carroll



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